back to article Top AI conference NIPS won't change its name amid growing protest over 'bad taste' acronym

Like something out of HBO's TV satire Silicon Valley, Neural Information Processing Systems is one of the world's top AI conferences. Yes, N. I. P. S. NIPS. And a decision to keep calling it that has somewhat split the machine-learning community. NIPS is one of the must-attend AI events of the year for those working or …


  1. thames

    And here was I after reading the title thinking it would have been the Japanese who were complaining about it.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Alas, as a Scotsman I was hoping it would be about a measure of whisky.

      An unusually large measure for spirits =>

      1. Cowboy Bob

        "Alas, as a Scotsman I was hoping it would be about a measure of whisky."

        One of my favourite local(ish) watering holes is called The Nip And Growler. And yes, it's run by two women.

        1. james_smith

          I had an idea for a dating / hookup website for ladies who enjoy love of the sapphic kind. Something akin to Tinder or Grindr. I was going to call it Growlr, but the .com domain name is taken and the owner wants a six figure sum for it :-(

      2. The Nazz Silver badge


        Mental As Anything that is :

        Not what it appeared to be when i first came across it.

        As always, a song for everything.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > An unusually large measure for spirits =>

        For offering to guests maybe, for private consumption however...

    2. Korev Silver badge

      I was about to make exactly the same point.

  2. frank ly Silver badge


    Does anyone remember travelleing wave amplifier tubes? They are called 'travelling wave tube amplifiers' now. I remember noticing the change in the literature and brochures many years ago.

    The name of a conference doesn't make the attendees behave in a childish or sexist manner; that behavior is already present in them and will find an outlet or expression somehow, someway, anyway.

    1. Richard Jones 1

      Re: TWTAs

      New usage for old abbreviations also emerge, anyone else remember how Subscriber Trunk Dialling became the same as Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD)?

      Given advanced sensitivity on one side and a moronic lack of sensitivity on the other perhaps a sensible code of conduct is the right and only way to handle the issue. It also has the great advantage of being rather more pervasive across society.

      If a form of behaviour is wrong, it is wrong everywhere. In this case I submit it is the behaviour and the propensity to misbehave that is wrong and not just whatever the name of the conference, group or whatever happens to be

      1. h4rm0ny

        Re: TWTAs

        On the contrary, I think less of anyone who needs the name to be changed because "NIPS" upsets them. These people are over-sensitive ideologues just looking to be offended. They lose the respect I would give them by default through their behaviour. Ditto for those Californian politicians who have tried to get the terms "master" and "slave" removed frim computer terminology and feminist campaigner Adria Richards getting two developers fired because she overheard them making a joke about 'dongles'.

        Some people you don't kowtow to. You tell them to grow up and stop trying to invent sexism and racism where there isn't any. Give them power and they'll just move on to policing the next piece of language. Fuck 'em.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: TWTAs

      in an article about how something affects women, why are you turning this around into how it affects men?

      1. Bernard M. Orwell Silver badge

        Re: TWTAs

        "why are you turning this around into how it affects men?"

        Because the desired outcome postulated by the complainant is a behavioral change in men, requiring them to think and respond differently to how they have previously. Therefore, this affects men. Therefore the men on this forum are talking about how it makes them feel and how they respond to it.

        Or would you rather we all just shut up and do as we're told without debate or discussion? Perhaps we should check our privilege and stay silent?

        Well, I have news for you.....

  3. Dacarlo

    I was expecting...

    ...nips and corrections at the bottom of the article.

  4. malle-herbert Silver badge

    Sexist ?

    Men have #NIPSTOO...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sexist ?

      That doesn't matter to those who are taking offence. Often on other people's behalf, whether those others like it or not.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sexist ?

      > "Men have #NIPSTOO..."

      Stunted ones, yes. Altho some of us don't look very stunted at all, oy...

  5. Anonymous Coward
    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: GIMP

      Some people of all sexes evidently enjoy pvc costumes. My issue with The GIMP is that it doesn't contain the word paint, photo, picture or image in its abbreviated form - an admittedly small hurdle for a novice user, but small hurdles do add up for someone who is learning.

      I don't know why some advocates of GNU/Linux are loath to make the system easier for would-be users.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: GIMP

        Because people work on it for fun and when an outsider who has contributed nothing to the project starts telling you what you can and cannot do it stops being fun. And this is true even you were already doing it anyway.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: GIMP

        > "I don't know why some advocates of GNU/Linux are loath to make the system easier for would-be users."

        You mean change the name "GIMP" to something that instantly brands the app as a graphics tool? Well okay, but it's not a system change, IMHO.

        Lessee, what catchy hook to rename "The Gimp" to, hrmmmm...

        "RasterBlaster"? No...

        "MyPrettyVectors"? Too precious.

        "Paint-N-Stuff"? Not serious enough.

        "Imaginarium"? Hasn't that been done already?

        I give up. Only a simp messes with The Gimp!

      3. DownUndaRob

        Re: GIMP

        So change the name of GIMP to something that includes Image in its name???


        The Gnu Image Manipulation Program.


        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: GIMP

          Dave's complaint was that "GIMP" (short form) doesn't brand the app properly by itself. It's a good point, but IMO the GIMP name isn't that bad, and it certainly sets the app apart from the other graphics apps.

      4. Bernard M. Orwell Silver badge

        Re: GIMP

        "My issue with The GIMP is that it doesn't contain the word paint, photo, picture or image"

        I'm not sure that GIMP-PIC is any better....

  6. 45RPM Silver badge

    Well either someone boobed or people are getting breastacularly upset about… well, the wrong thing. The Japanese might have cause to be upset but (hang on, as a bloke, let me check on this crowded train*) yes, I have nips too. We all do. And, dare I say it, we have noses too. And belly buttons. So if it’s considered inappropriate because it’s a body part then we, as a society, have got our priorities desperately wrong.

    *and now I’m being arrested for indecent exposure. Jesus! People are so oversensitive!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      great job missing the point.

      1. 45RPM Silver badge


        I’m glad you liked it. But if I’d got my point out then I really would have been in trouble. Woohoo! As it is, I think I only just missed out on a few nights in the clink. Close shave there.

  7. Starace

    Says more about the 'offended' than anyone else

    If your mind strongly pushes you to an interpretation that gets you that upset it says more about the way you think than anything else.

    If you frequently see language as racist or sexist then maybe it's you that's, well...

    I also note a certain lack of inclusiveness and diversity among the complainers and their pet issues.

    1. Wellyboot Silver badge

      Re: Says more about the 'offended' than anyone else

      When someone is 'offended' by the mere existence of any alternative thought process, belief, way of life etc. there's precious little that can be done without reducing to their level of 'diversity intolerance' or feeding the next 'request' by acquiescence.

      To complain about the acronym NIPS is nitpicking to excess about a schoolboy sniggery (ooo they said nips!) level of problem in a world where self identification as anything other than straight male or female is frequently life threatening.

    2. Bernard M. Orwell Silver badge

      Re: Says more about the 'offended' than anyone else

      Indeed. I am constantly surprised by how such strong, confident, intelligent, successful, superior and independent people get offended by mere words, whereas those they denigrate do not.

  8. WonkoTheSane

    Others have dodged that bullet...

    The Northern Ireland Police Service changed it's name to Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) instead.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Others have dodged that bullet...

      ... and not the Police (Northern Ireland) Service

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Others have dodged that bullet...

        Support your local PNIS

    2. mrbeardy

      Re: Others have dodged that bullet...

      I hate to break it to you, but the RUC name change went straight to PSNI. However, the Northern Ireland Prison Service has been around since 1995

  9. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    An acronyvm is an acronym

    If you don't like NIPS representing Neural Information Processing Systems, then you need to require a change to the title "Neural Information Processing Systems", because NIPS is the proper acronym for it. Just like Apollo 13 - it was the 13th flight whether you like it or not.

    Take your mind out of the gutter and start being as adult as your age. Okay, stupid remark to a bunch of IT blokes, I know, but still : grow up.

    That being said, the board could have sidestepped the entire issue by simply asking what attendees would like for a new acronym. Don't like NIPS ? Suggest a new one and put your money where your mouth is. It's easy to complain about something when you don't have to find a solution.

    1. Rol Silver badge

      Re: An acronyvm is an acronym

      "Suggest a new one and put your money where your mouth is."

      Total Immersion Transistor Technology Executing Rational Yet Exclusive Non Optimised Thinking

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is dumb.

  11. LenG

    You have to work really hard to get excited by something this trivial. Seems to me some people spend a lot of time and energy looking for something to get upset about.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Complaining about NIPS but happy with CoC?

    Something of a double standard here.

  13. big_D Silver badge


    Is a bit racist, but it took me a couple of minutes to remember what you were referring to, because I haven't heard anyone referring to Japanese as Nips since I was a kid...

    But this is a problem that keeps cropping up, a word or abbeviation is used and then it is suddenly used as slang for something else and the original meaning is wrong.

    When I left the UK in early noughties, this wasn't a term I'd ever heard in relationship to nipples, which I assume is where the problem lies. Therefore the conference was using the abbreviation for 2 decades before it became common slang.

  14. JimC Silver badge

    Must be kinda hard to find

    an acronym that someone somewhere speaking some language or another will not be able to object to, unless you go for something totally unpronounceable, which rather defeats the object of having an acronym.

  15. DropBear Silver badge

    The Professional Offendee Squad can go pound sand. This is already more attention than they deserve, which is zero. People making it their business to try telling others what they should and shouldn't do absolutely must be stripped of any power, ever, over anyone else.

  16. thosrtanner

    I presume this must mean that half the delegates read The Register avidly, because where I come from nips are things that are given to you by creatures with teeth. Or a small amount of spirits.

    Only here have I regularly seen it used to refer to body parts below the neck.

  17. Rol Silver badge

    It was a fair vote!

    "So, that's eighteen votes for a chicken supper and one vote for a vegetarian meal. I declare, by means of a fair and democratic vote, that chicken has won again. Thank you to all you foxes for your contribution in this process, and I wish the representative from the coup, who made this a credible and inclusive meeting, a safe journey home."

    1. h4rm0ny

      Re: It was a fair vote!

      I call Crap Analogy time. Big difference between being eaten and not thinking a simple acronym is denigrating you. If it spelled out the N-word or something, sure - because that's extreme and looks contrived. But this is not.

      Other way your analogy is bad is that the chicken in this case (political feminists) is pretending to speak for women as a whole. But most women are far smarter than to be offended by this. All chickens don't want to be eaten. Most women do not identify as feminists. Not in the modern sense.

    2. dajames Silver badge

      Re: It was a fair vote!

      ... I wish the representative from the coup ... a safe journey home.

      I know this was supposed to be humour, but it falls flat.

      The thing that chickens may be housed in is a coop, not a coup ... a coup is a "blow", which might be what the foxes have achieved by winning the vote. The misspelling ruins the point.

      Add to that the fact that chickens are far from vegetarian -- they eat grubs and worms ... as will foxes, if it's all they can get -- and the point is almost entirely lost.

      Shame, because otherwise I quite enjoyed the comment.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    NIPS ...thinks a bit for a new group name, would any of the complainee delegates support Advanced Neural Algorithmic Logistics Symposium?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Rhyming slang

    Raspberry - Raspberry ripple - nipple

    We must change the name of a certain ARM-based computer now!

  20. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge


    I'm starting a Campaign for Using New Terms.

  21. Wellyboot Silver badge


    Hope it wasn't to chilly at the meeting after this exchange.

    Mine's the one on the left coatpeg.


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